CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

UN takes over peacekeeping amid ongoing CAR violence

Pacome Pabandji, AFP | French soldiers patrol the streets of Bangui in July, 2014

As inter-religious fighting continues to plague the Central African Republic (CAR), the African Union-led peacekeeping force, MISCA, officially ceded control of its mission in the country to the United Nations on Monday.

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The UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) will be tasked with restoring peace and order in CAR, which has seen outbreaks of religious violence since early 2013.

On the eve of MINUSCA taking over the mandate, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union's International Support Mission to the Central African Republic, or MISCA.

“This transfer of authority marks the successful completion of MISCA’s mandate and the beginning of MINUSCA’s military and police action in the Central African Republic,” said a statement issued by Ban’s office. “The secretary-general expresses his great appreciation to MISCA, which has saved and protected many lives.”

He also called on all sides involved in the conflict “to put an immediate end to the violence”, reminding those concerned to “sustain their commitment to an inclusive political process to ensure the successful completion of the country’s transition”.

The UN has so far deployed about 6,500 troops to CAR in addition to 1,000 police officers. The MINUSCA force, which was created by a UN Security Council resolution in April, has a mandate for almost 12,000 soldiers and police and is due to operate through April 30, 2015. The mission’s main goal is to protect civilians but it is also tasked with supporting political transition and humanitarian efforts in the country as well as facilitating the process of disarmament.

CAR has been torn apart by inter-religious fighting ever since the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel group from the country’s north, seized power in a March 2013 coup. The Seleka officially disbanded after taking control but some former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting.

In the months that followed, mostly Christian vigilante militias calling themselves the “anti-balaka”, which in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”, were formed to fight the Seleka. These groups began launching brutal reprisal attacks on the country’s minority Muslim population, whom they accuse of supporting the rebels.

Months of inter-religious violence followed. In an interview with FRANCE 24 in February, the UN warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in the country.

Catherine Samba-Panza, former mayor of the capital Bangui, was elected as the country’s interim president in January. She oversaw a July ceasefire agreement between the Seleka and anti-balaka militias but the violence has continued despite the deal. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 146 people have been killed in the country since June.

“Civilians are being killed by all sides at an alarming rate and people are desperate for protection,” said Lewis Mudge, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is no time to lose. The new UN mission urgently needs to get more troops into eastern and central areas and take bold steps to protect civilians from these brutal attacks.”
 

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